Judge Priestly McBride: Is a middle name important?

George Caleb Bingham, Judge Priestly Haggin McBride, c. 1837, Kenneth B. and Cynthia McClain Collection, Independence, Missouri

George Caleb Bingham, Judge Priestly Haggin McBride, c. 1837
McClain Collection, Jackson County Art Museum
Independence, Missouri

The name of the subject of the George Caleb Bingham portrait, Judge Priestly Haggin McBride, always struck me as one of the most robust of names.  Each word is strong and memorable. Said as a trio they explode with power.

In December 2013, I learned that the middle name of Priestly McBride was not Haggin.  Glenn R. Morton, a relative of the judge who privately published a book on the McBride family, sent me a copy of a portion of an original manuscript from the Lyman Copeland Draper Manuscript Collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society. The author was Priestly’s father, William McBride (1771-1844). In the first paragraph, in the next to the last sentence, the final three words are William McBride ‘s son’s name: “Priestly Harvey McBride.”

Priestly Harvey McBride Source Document

From my genealogy work with all Bingham portrait subjects, I knew “Haggin” was also the middle name of Priestly’s younger brother, James, a famed Confederate general (1814-1864).  I knew Haggin was the maiden name of their mother, Jane (1775-1863). I had also learned that their paternal great-grandmother’s maiden name was Priestly. In my initial research, I noted that the two brothers had the same middle name and thought it unusual, but let the thought fade away — until  Glenn Morton contacted me. I searched for further historical documentation. I reviewed the 19th and early 20th century secondary sources[1] that refer to Judge McBride. Neither the name Haggin nor Harvey was ever used, only the initial H.

I returned to genealogy and found Jane Haggin McBride had a brother named Harvey. I also learned Priestly’s daughter, Sarah Adaline McBride (1830-1917), and her husband, Francis Marion Grimes (1829-1917), named their firstborn son Priestly Harvey Grimes (1864-1930).  Not proof, but as uncommon as are shared sibling middle names, naming a child after a sibling of one of the parents was common. Even more common was naming a son after one of his grandfathers. Both written evidence and American naming conventions lead to the conclusion that Priestly McBride’s middle name was indeed Harvey.

Portrait Research

George Caleb Bingham, Mrs. Priestly Haggin McBride (Mary Snell), 1837, McClain Collection, Jackson County Art Museum
Independence, Missouri

Art historian E. Maurice Bloch was meticulous in his work of cataloging George Caleb Bingham paintings. How could he have given a portrait the wrong name?  The confusion seems to have occurred in a letter dated 8 November 1955, written to Bloch by the owner of the George Caleb Bingham portrait, Ebenezer Walker McBride, c. 1837.  The owner was a direct descendant of E. W. McBride, and an indirect descendant of Priestly H. McBride.  He wrote, “[Ebenezer] was married in Boone County, Mo., 16 Dec. 1830, to Juliann (or Julia Ann) Snell.  His brother, Judge Priestly H. Haggin [sic], married her sister…The four were Bingham subjects during the same period.”[2]  Bloch used the information given him, but the facts lead to the conclusion that Priestly’s middle name was Harvey.  Moreover, though Ebenezer and Priestly married sisters, they were not brothers. They were cousins.  But that is a different story.

Is a middle name important? The words “Priestly Harvey McBride” do not explode when said together, but it is still a strong name, and may be a fitter fit for the man George Caleb Bingham portrayed with such strength of character.

(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2012
All Rights Reserved


[1] ____________, Laws of the State of Missouri Passed at the First Session of the Ninth General Assembly Begun at the City of Jefferson on Monday, the Twenty-First Day of November, in the Year of Our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-Six. Second Edition, Vol. 3, 1836-1838 (Saint Louis: Chambers and Knapp – Republican Office, printed by order of the Secretary of State, 1841), 55-59: ____________, Laws of the State of Missouri Passed at the First Session of the Ninth General Assembly Begun at the City of Jefferson on Monday, the Nineteenth Day of November, in the Year of Our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-Eight. Second Edition, Vol. 3, 1836-1838 (City of Jefferson: Calvin Gunn, 1838), 33-34; National History Company, History of Monroe and Shelby Counties, Written and Compiled from the Most Authentic Official and Private Sources Including a History of Their Townships, Towns and Villages Together with a Condensed History of Missouri; a Reliable And Detailed History of Monroe and Shelby Counties – Their Pioneer Record, Resources, and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens; General and Local Statistics of Great Value; Incidents and Reminiscence, (Saint Louis: National History Company, 1884), 38-39, 114, 194, 207-208, 645-647; W. B. Napton, Attorney General and Ex-Officio Reporter, edited and annotated by Louis Houck, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri, from 1835 to 1837, Volume 4 (Cape Girardeau, Mo., 1870), 186-190

[2]E. Maurice Bloch, The Paintings of George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonné (University of Missouri Press, 1986), 146. 

About Patricia Moss

Patricia Moss is an art historian, or art detective if you will, who solves mysteries of 19th century American portraits. She located nearly 70 of Bingham’s lost portraits, a feat acknowledged by the Smithsonian’s Research and Scholar’s Center. From expertise with portraits of George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), she developed skills that evolved into a comprehensive system based on the scientific method that conforms to the legal and ethical standards of art authentication. Moss served as a guest curator for the Bingham Bicentennial Exhibit, “Steamboats to Steam Engines: George Caleb Bingham’s Missouri: 1819-1879,” (March 10-September 8, 2011) at the Truman Presidential Museum and curated the opening exhibition, “George Caleb Bingham: Witness to History,” (September 2013 –), Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri. She is also the principal researcher for Fine Art Investigations.
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